It was a pleasure to demonstrate a bit of cane fighting for the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London this week. Many thanks to my associates Mr. Shepherd and Mr. Searle.
Here’s an excerpt from The One Show, with me getting flatted by my old pal and fellow jiu jitsu instructor Mary Petty — I’m the bad cop. There are two nice throws at the end, so it’s worth wading through the beard commentary.
The focus is Edith Garrud, a very small jiu jitsu instructor, who trained a team of women who looked after the suffragettes. I’m an Edwardian policeman (cannon fodder) and Mary’s playing the role of Edith Garrud. Hope it turned out well in the edit. She kicked my head in. Possible live demo as well tonight — just need to find a presentable gi without blood on it.
I take up as many good objections to the idea that philosophy doesn’t matter (it’s dead, it’s without content, its subject matter has been taken over by science, it makes no progress, etc) and then sift through what I think are the best replies. I think some of the objections really do hit home.
In the end, I’m a pluralist about why philosophy matters — I think it matters in a number of different ways, some cosmic, some not. I don’t think it always matters — a great deal depends on the person who reads and thinks about it. The same bit of Aristotle might not matter at all to you the first time you read it, but when you have a real live philosophical problem on your hands, finding an ally in Aristotle can matter a very great deal to you.
Philosophy has had a hard time in the press lately. It’s said that philosophy is dead, that is is without content, that it has made no progress in nearly two and a half thousand years. Philosophy departments have been closed by those who say it’s an unjustifiable expense. Philosophers, memorably, have been called the gym teachers of academia. Philosophical chestnuts like the problem of free will are said to have scientific solutions, not philosophical ones. Is this criticism justified? Does philosophy still matter?
I’ll put it up here when I’ve tweaked it a bit.
Here’s a video I just discovered from a panel discussion I took part in at the philosophy festival HowTheLightGetsIn. The debate is about the value of technology. I argue, along with Langdon Winner, that technology isn’t neutral — in fact it can nudge us into particular political directions, whether we like it or not. There are further worries about whether or not the technology we use actually remakes us in a way, rewires our brains. I have the feeling at least some of the changes are not for the better — I’m in the ‘Google makes you stupid’ camp I think.
Here’s an extract from a piece for The European, on ethics and the Warsaw talks on climate change.
Instead of starting with the fact of the planet’s climate budget or even the history of emissions, we should start with thoughts about values. What matters to us, and what are we prepared to do for it? Is it simply money or do the lives of future generations matter? Are we prepared to pay something now to improve the lives of future people, a payment we know we’ll never get back? Or do we want cheap energy, and are we willing to harm the poor for it?
As George W. Bush said when opting out of the Kyoto treaty, ‘complying with those mandates would have a negative economic impact, with layoffs for workers and price increases for consumers.’ He might have been pointy-headed but at least he was clear. What leads to the bickering in climate talks, what keeps our sights low, what ends negotiations in deadlocks, walkouts, and half measures, is the thought that taking action on climate change would cost too much. Ignoring the history of emissions would be a mistake, but a worse mistake is allowing economic concerns to swamp moral ones.
You can read the whole thing here: Do The Right Thing!